Important Updates on Campus Status, Classes, Travel - Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion
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Important Updates on Campus Status, Classes, Travel

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Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Dear HUC-JIR community:

I am writing to provide some important updates as we manage the impact of the global spread of COVID-19.

Website Updating

The situation we are facing is changing rapidly.  To manage the flow of information in a more consistent and helpful way, we will be updating our HUC COVID-19 website on a regular basis.  We will also be using our emergency alert system, RAVE, to update you on major policy changes or to direct messages to specific populations within our system—students, faculty, or staff, for example.  Please make a habit of checking the website at least once everyday to remain informed. 

New information—Domestic Travel Restrictions.

Following the increasing practice of many institutions, and effective immediately, we are prohibiting all non-essential work-related domestic plane travel for our North American faculty, students, and staff through the end of Passover (April 19. We will be providing guidance to students regarding any fieldwork or internships impacted by this new policy.  Later today, you should expect to hear from our business office with information about covering any costs associated with cancelation charges.  We would ask that you first to try to recoup your costs with the carrier. (Please note that the prohibition on International Travel will extend through April 19 as well.)

Update:  Cincinnati Campus Closure

Yesterday, a student on the Cincinnati Campus began to exhibit symptoms of a virus, including a fever.  After testing negative for influenza late last night (a test that would have excluded the coronavirus as a source of the fever), this student is now being tested for COVID-19. Because the results of that test will not be available until later this week, we supported the recommendation of Dean Jonathan Hecht to close the Cincinnati campus.

Our decision to close the Cincinnati campus on Tuesday, March 10 and Wednesday, March 11, is consistent with other institutions that have been in similar situations. In responding to this evolving COVID-19 situation, we have remained sensitive to the local context of each of our campuses. The Cincinnati decision was made in consultation with Dr. Gary Zola, Executive Director of the AJA, and David Hoguet, interim CFO, who heads up the Business Office in Cincinnati. Most importantly, it was made out of an abundance of caution, recognizing the many communal activities were planned today on the campus.

The student was part of the delegation that went to AIPAC earlier this month; that may or may not have been the source of his current illness. The CDC and the Department of Health in Washington, DC have made clear that being at AIPAC alone is not a significant risk factor for contracting the virus.  Unless a person shows clear symptoms, and until the person tests negative for other more likely causes (like the flu), there is no reason to be overly concerned.  We wish this student a refuah shleima, a speedy recovery.


Other Updates

  •  New York:  Classes and Purim celebrations took place as planned on the New York campus today. On Wednesday and Thursday, we will be holding classes remotely in New York via Zoom as a test of our capability for remote learning.  This is also consistent with a decision made by NYU.  We are unaware of any cases of COVID-19 either at HUC or at NYU.  But with the spread of the virus through New York City and State, we believe preparing ourselves for remote learning is prudent. The building will remain open.


  • Cincinnati:  On Wednesday and Thursday, classes in Cincinnati will be held remotely. Instructions for remote teaching and learning will be sent to faculty and students in Cincinnati and New York. The campus will be closed for fculty, students, and staff on Wednesday, March 11. A decision regarding whether the campus will be open during the rest of this week will be made later tonight. Please pay attention to the RAVE alert and updated information on our website.


  • Los Angeles:  Classes and other activities in Los Angeles will proceed as planned this week.


  • Jerusalem:  Classes and other activities in Jerusalem will proceed as planned this week. We recognize that Israel is now imposing a14-day quarantine on all foreign visitors and Israelis arriving from outside of Israel, and appreciate how isolating this can feel to our Jerusalem campus community.  



  •           Wash your hands;
  •           Stay home if you are sick;
  • ·         Let your local dean know if a community in which you are working has had a case of COVID-19; and
  • ·         Let your local dean know if you do have a fever so we can assess the situation quickly. 


I thank you for your patience and support of each other as together we weather this unexpected and rapidly changing situation. 


Purim teaches us about our capacity to overcome adversity and be strong. Wishing you a very happy, healthy, and resilient Purim!  


Andrew Rehfeld, Ph.D.


Founded in 1875, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion is North America's leading institution of higher Jewish education and the academic, spiritual, and professional leadership development center of Reform Judaism. HUC-JIR educates leaders to serve North American and world Jewry as rabbis, cantors, educators, and nonprofit management professionals, and offers graduate programs to scholars and clergy of all faiths. With centers of learning in Cincinnati, Jerusalem, Los Angeles, and New York, HUC-JIR's scholarly resources comprise the renowned Klau Library, The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, museums, research institutes and centers, and academic publications. In partnership with the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, HUC-JIR sustains the Reform Movement's congregations and professional and lay leaders. HUC-JIR's campuses invite the community to cultural and educational programs illuminating Jewish heritage and fostering interfaith and multiethnic understanding.